SOCIAL MEDIUM: NAFTA has failed Mexican workers

Sandra Galindo and Sandra Galindo

On January 1, 1994, Mexico, Canada and the United States signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. The stated goal was to eliminate barriers of trade and investment and promote the conditions for fair competition between the countries.

In my opinion, that day also represents the biggest act of betrayal by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional and then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Millions of Mexicans were displaced, losing their previous way of life because of NAFTA.

Farmers were gradually ruined as Mexico was filled with U.S. agricultural products. Sowing their land was no longer productive, and many small farmers lost the means to live a life of economic dignity.

With no jobs and no opportunity to fight back, people were forced to migrate. Many searched for jobs north of Mexico, leaving their families behind.

Many set out for a U.S. job but got stuck in Tijuana’s “belt of misery,” working in maquiladoras, part of the worst of the manufacturing sector in México.

Maquiladoras are a preferred way for industrialized countries to improve their international competitiveness. Capitalists want disposable, cheap labor, and the Mexican government allows multinational corporations to exploit workers.

The in-need, unemployed workers take the abuses and give their lives in return, accepting whatever is available, while hunger is a reality for their families.

Maquiladoras usually pay wages that are not enough to meet the most basic needs of families. Women aged 16 to 30 represent 60% of the employees, and managers are primarily men, which encourages sexual harassment.

Workers face shifts of 10, 12, 14 and in some cases even 24 hours – usually without overtime compensation.

Bathroom or water breaks are not always allowed, and the health and safety of the workers is often at risk, usually due to toxic chemicals involved in their jobs.

Women are often tested for pregnancy before they are hired.

NAFTA has allowed corporations to compete in the international market, but it has also impoverished Mexicans, worsened their labor conditions, and increased crime and poverty.

Article 123 of the Mexican Labor Law says every Mexican has the right to “a dignified and socially useful job.”

But laws in Mexico are not enforced consistently. So all along the maquiladora border, a feeling of impotence grows as workers must endure abuses.